Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 5/7/11

Saturday: The Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN) invites you to “Get Intimate with the Shrub Steppe” (GISS) at Helen McCabe Park this morning and early afternoon. Go to for more information about the entire event. I invite you to Get Intimate with Super Spectacular Saturn (GISSS) tonight. Saturn is four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 10 p.m. With a small telescope, you can see the rings of Saturn and at least one of its moons – Titan. With a good pair of 10X50 binoculars and a tripod, Titan will be visible tonight to the right of Saturn. The “10X” in 10X50 indicated the binoculars have a magnification of ten times. The “50” means that the diameter of the lenses on the front are 50 millimeters. 10X50 is a common size for binoculars.

Sunday: So you think your mother has problems on Mother’s Day because she has you as you as a child? Her mother issues can’t be as bad as Cassiopeia’s issues. First, she was chained to a chair for boasting about her beauty. Second, she has to revolve around the North Star night after night. Third, her daughter Andromeda was nearly sacrificed to a sea monster. Look for poor Cassiopeia about one and a half fists above the north horizon at 10 p.m. Cassiopeia looks like a stretched out “W”.

Monday: Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury are spending the week wishing a happy mother’s day to Venus, named after the goddess of love. They are together in the morning sky all week. At 5:15 a.m., Jupiter and Venus are a half a fist above the east-northeast horizon. Jupiter is one finger to the left of the much brighter Venus. (Mercury and Mars are much dimmer and below the other two planets.) As the days go by, Venus will move to the left and Jupiter will move up in the sky.

Tuesday: Are you interested in observing the night sky but you don’t know what to look at or you don’t know if the sky will cooperate. NASA’s Night Sky Network has a night sky planning page at Here you’ll find links to star charts, a local weather forecast, local sky conditions and more.

Wednesday: Jupiter and Venus are less than a pinky-width apart at 5:15 a.m. in the low eastern sky. Hopefully, you have been following the planets throughout the week. Their noticeable movement with respect to the background stars is evidence that they are much closer to us than the stars.

Thursday: Do people think you have a magnetic personality? Cor Caroli, the brightest star of Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs, understands how you feel. It has one of the strongest magnetic fields among main sequence stars similar to our Sun. This strong magnetic field is thought to produce large sunspots that cause the brightness of Cor Caroli to vary. Cor Caroli is nearly straight overhead at 10:30 p.m. Its name means "Heart of Charles," in honor of England's King Charles II.

Friday: Are you a henpecked husband? King Cepheus was. He was so captivated by his wife Cassiopeia’s beauty that he let her rule their home. You can tell who is boss by looking in the northern sky at 10 p.m. Cassiopeia is the prominent W-shaped grouping of stars two fists above the north horizon. Cepheus is the much dimmer house-shaped grouping of stars about a fist to the right of Cassiopeia.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week.

No comments: